As before-and-after images go, the slide projected in a darkened courtroom here on Wednesday was striking. On the left, two dirt-encrusted fragments of a terra-cotta figure, one of them darkened by smoke; on the right, a complete version of the figure, a dancing woman and satyr that was once part of a roof ornament of an ancient Etruscan building.
Italian prosecutors at the trial of Marion True, a former curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles charged with trafficking in looted antiquities, said the first photograph was taken moments after the fragments were unearthed. The other photo depicts the sixth-century B.C. "Maenad and Silenus" ornament — whose lower section bears identical traces of smoke damage — which the Getty acquired in 1996 from the collectors Lawrence A. and Barbara Fleischman.
Investigators at the trial suggested that the images were nothing short of an antiquities "smoking gun." Another slide depicted the shattered remains of an identical "Maenad and Silenus" photographed in front of the chicken coop of a known tomb robber in Montalto di Castro, near the ancient Etruscan city of Vulci, northwest of Rome.
As the trial of Ms. True and her co-defendant, the American dealer Robert Hecht, enters its fifth month, prosecutors also called on Italy's art theft police to explain the web that they say links the defendants to tomb robbers and unscrupulous dealers.
Gen. Roberto Conforti, the retired head of the art theft squad, testified that he wrote a letter in 2000 to hundreds of museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and museums in Boston and Cleveland and at Princeton University, seeking their aid in tracking down works of art that could have been looted in Italy and illegally exported.
A copy of General Conforti's letter was found among the papers confiscated from Mr. Hecht's home in Paris, other investigators said Wednesday, speculating on how it might have made its way there. Over the decades, Mr. Hecht, 86, has sold dozens of antiquities to museums in the United States and abroad.
The photos mentioned above accompany the original article (which also has a few more paragraphs) ... Meanwhile, the New York Sun gives us a tease (they're a subscription thing, so we only get the first couple paragraphs) that Greece is going after the Getty:
Seizing on a historic accord between Italy and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Greece is gearing up to renew claims for four antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, a spokeswoman for the Greek Cultural Ministry confirmed yesterday.
Greece had threatened legal action against the Getty in November after ministry officials said they were frustrated with the museum's unresponsiveness to their claims. The case had been put on hold while new leaders took the helm at the museum and the ministry. Now the Met's agreement to send prized antiquities to Italy in exchange for long-term loans has spurred the new Greek culture minister, George Voulgarakis, to step up its efforts against the Getty, a ministry spokes woman, Eugenia Middou, said. The ministry plans to contact the museum in the next few days, she said.
This one's kind of strange in that Greece has been claiming 'it's going after the Getty' for quite a while now ... see, e.g., an artiticle at PND from October 2005 ... an article archived at the CBC from November 2005, the Telegraph from January 2006 (annoying audio ad) ... these all might ultimately stem from a piece in the LA Times from October (with photos of one of the pieces) ...